Monday, July 24, 2017

Through another's eyes

Sometimes he's a little bit hard to understand.

Though he is speaking English, it is heavily accented and sometimes you have to listen very hard.

But it's worth it.

Because he always has something interesting to say.

This time especially.

This time he was telling me about his trip to Europe and his visit to the museum in Amsterdam and the chance to see the work of Peter Paul Rubens.

Ben is an artist. He sketches and paints, mostly portraits.

So he knows good art when he sees it.

And he, more than the rest of us perhaps, appreciates it.

He told about one painting that was as big as the wall, and he went over to a wall and showed me with his arms making large motions, just how big that painting as big as a wall was.

And then he told about some of the things he saw when he looked at it, and how he could have looked at it all day long.

And he positively glowed when talking about that painting and that day.

And then he talked of how impressive it was that those artists could paint small figures in their paintings with amazing detail. And he picked up a pen and showed me how small with his fingers at the end of the pen, and talked about how difficult it is to do small details with paint on canvas even with a small brush because the paint -- and he couldn't think of the word so he showed me with his fingers what the paint does -- and the only word I could think of was smushes.

But I believed him about how hard it is to paint small figures on canvas because he is an artist.

He was all smiles as he recounted his time at the museum, because he had seen something so amazing done by someone with such talent, and because he of all people know how amazing the art and how talented the artist.

And I was all smiles because I am quite sure that when I go to museums I miss most everything that he was telling me about but all of the sudden I wasn't missing it anymore. Even from a distance.

And it was not just a Thursday afternoon conversation at the gallery that day Ben came to tell me about his trip.

It was a gift.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

June sunsets

From my office window, I watch the sun progress north from spring to summer, then move south again into fall, when it passes a hill nearby and goes out of view in the evenings.

This week, it is in its northernmost position, if I understand the system correctly. It will start moving south again now. One thing's for sure: I will keep watching.

June 13:

June 15:

June 21:

In these views, the sun is setting behind Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Looking up

Most moments come unexpectedly. You're looking down and around and then you hear something that makes you look up.

And you're transported.

Flying. Freedom. Fresh air.


Thursday, April 13, 2017


Beaches and palms, sunsets and sea life, sailboats and blossoms, warm Aloha and crashing waves ... nothing like a getaway to Hawaii. With help from my Pacific-islands-loving parents, it has come to feel like home.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Window seat

 Longest sunset ever -- on the way to Seattle -- Feb. 27, 2017

 Rain to snow to sunshine -- on the way home to Salt Lake City -- March 9, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

On finding freedom

Twice a week for four years I went to Fatuma's home to help her in the transition to America.

Fatuma was from Somalia, though she'd lived in refugee camps in Kenya for a good portion of her life.

Her husband was already good at English and had a job at the airport when I first started to their home.

Her older children were in school and a second language seemed to come easily to them.

Fatuma was home with babies and toddlers so getting to a class was difficult. Going to the store was intimidating. Dealing with American traditions was overwhelming.

So after some training, I got signed up to help.

I don't know if she learned anything over those four years of pictures and letters and flashcards and props and stories and explanations and sharing and trying and trying again.

But I did.

I learned about the price of opportunity. The price of freedom.

She had loved her home in Africa.

Her father had land and hundreds of animals. Life was simple. Children were home. Families were together.

But unrest made their home unsafe.

"Everybody wants to be the government," her husband told me when I asked about the government in Somalia. "Everybody fights. Everybody dies."

So they brought their family to America.

It wasn't easy.

Not to get here and not to adjust to here.

I taught Fatuma about our money, about our holidays (Halloween was especially unfathomable for her), about our schools.

I taught her husband, Ali, and his sister, Zeinab, about our government and our history and our geography to help them prepare to take their citizenship tests.

And they taught me.

I saw the love in their home. Young children helped younger children. Multiple generations lived together and took care of each other's needs.

I saw a deep religiosity in their home. Even young girls wore headscarves when they went to school or if I wanted to take a picture of them. They had a special room for worship and prayer. They fasted from sunrise to sundown for the month of Ramadan, even when it meant headaches and weakness.

During one visit, they were upset for a sister who had been resettled to Alaska. She was alone with children, had been sent their in the randomness of refugee resettlement decisions made by someone they would never be able to reach or reason with, and had no one to talk to or to understand her.

They wanted to drive there. Or fly her to Utah. Or find some way to help.

But we were all helpless.

Resettling to America isn't for the faint of heart.

It is for the brave. For those willing to risk all they know and understand for something new and frighteningly different.

They do it because there is safety here.

And one would help they would find support and understanding and acceptance as well.

Fatuma and Ali and their family moved to Minnesota some years ago so our weekly visits have ended.

They went for new opportunities and a larger community from their homeland to support and relate to them.

While I no longer spend time with them, I continue to have hope for them and the children they brought to America to provide a future of opportunity and security.

They are all American citizens now.

They know about the balance of powers, the first president, the longest river, the countries at our borders, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

And when they took the naturalization oath to become citizens, they renounced allegiance to any other country and pledged to support ours in any way that might be asked of them.

And though I never used to worry about what is ahead for them here, things have changed.

They are free from the fear and oppression of the homeland of their birth.

I hope they can be free from fear in their new one.

"Give me your tired, your poor," reads the poem inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, "your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Winter weather

White and wooly.
We've had it all these past few weeks -- wind and rain,
sleet and snow, bitter cold and surprising warmth.
Kinda pretty, though, yes?!